Should Britain quit the EU? North West MEPs give their views
11:56am Thursday 7th February 2013 in North West
It is nearly four decades since the British people were last given the chance to have their say on Europe, in the first referendum held throughout the UK.
Now David Cameron has promised an in-out referendum on the EU by 2017.
A new Populus poll suggests eight-out-of-ten Britons want a referendum on Europe.
The poll found half the population want an immediate say about whether or not Britain should retain European membership status, with 40% of those questioned saying they thought the country should pull out of Europe straight away.
We invited North West Euro MPs Chris Davies – a Liberal Democrat and fervent believer in Britain staying inside the EU, and UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall, committed to seeing Britain withdraw, to explain the arguments for and against.
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BRITAIN AT THE HEART OF EUROPE
By Chris Davies, Lib Dem MEP for the North West
Why wait? Personally I would call an IN-OUT referendum tomorrow, if only because our European partners are fed up with Britain not seeming able to make up its mind about what we want.
People grumble about the EU all the time, but faced with a clear choice I have no doubt that the vote will be YES to the EU by a big majority.
"It's about jobs, jobs, jobs," says the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg.
He's right that our economic success depends to a large extent on Britain being part of a European single market that we helped to create, but there's more to it than that.
It's about making sure that we are at the top table where the decisions are made, rather than being relegated to second class status and having to accept rules made by others as the price for access.
In the 1960s Britain begged to be allowed to join the old Common Market.
We had made a mistake by not getting on board at the beginning but the world was changing fast and our influence was diminishing. Today the world is changing even faster.
Britain remains a member of the G8 group of largest economies, together with Germany and France, but by 2030 not a single European country will be amongst the global top eight.
We will all have been overtaken by fast-growing countries elsewhere.
Imagine trying to do a trade deal with China by ourselves rather than as part of the world's largest trading bloc - they could eat us up and spit us out. Partnership gives us strength.
Some say that outside the EU we could negotiate our own trade deals with growing economies like India. Yet Germany and even Belgium are doing more trade with India than we are, despite Britain being the former colonial power.
The EU is not holding them back so why should it restrict us?
Are there things I would like to change?
You bet there are, and I'm reminded of that every time I have to up sticks and make the wasteful journey from Brussels to the European Parliament's unnecessary second home in Strasbourg.
But I don't want to scrap the host of laws that make trade easier, make travelling cheaper, and make our environment better.
My particular bugbear is the Common Fisheries Policy but I'm at the centre of the negotiations that will set it in a new direction, rebuilding fish stocks and ending the discard of perfectly good fish.
That's how reform and improvement are achieved.
Working in the European Parliament alongside MEPs from 26 other countries (most of them speaking in English) reminds me every day that we have problems in common and they need shared solutions.
We've learnt to our cost that the financial industry works across borders and needs regulating, exporters want to know that there is one standard they must meet, not 27 different ones.
And it doesn't matter how high you pull up the castle drawbridge, the air pollution will still get in.
At its most simple the European Union is a mechanism that allows governments to work together to But it's also a Union of democracies, defending human rights (not always perfectly), following the rule of law, and resolving disputes between its members by peaceful means.
The opening words of the European Treaty sound like a statement of British values.
What a contrast this all is to a past that saw two World Wars in Europe and decades of threatening Communist dictatorship.
We should be proud of the role we have played in shaping the EU. We should insist on remaining at its very heart.
LET’S LEAVE THIS POWER-HUNGRY ENTITY
By Paul Nuttall, UKIP MEP for the North West
THERE are so many compelling reasons to leave the EU I almost don’t know where to begin.
But let’s start with the staggering £53m a day - and rising - it costs this country to be a member of this power-hungry entity.
We’ve all seen the signs plastered around on construction sites saying ‘thank EU” as if we should doff our caps for their generosity. But all they are doing are giving us back some of our own money.
For every £1 we hand over to them we get less than 60 pence back. We should be keeping it all in our own pockets in the first place.
And then there is the problem of uncontrolled immigration from the other member states.
A situation which is likely to be a whole heap worse by this time next year when Bulgarians and Romanians will have the right to move here.
Untold thousands are already champing at the bit to do so and the problems we already have such as intolerable pressure on housing, jobs, education, health and benefits will increase exponentially.
They come here, understandably, for our generous benefit system and jobs and will work for very low pay.
This harms British workers and causes feelings of resentment, not helped by lack of a common language.
Meanwhile who isn’t feeling the financial pinch as far as energy prices are concerned?
Well, only land owners who are making mega-bucks by littering the countryside with useless wind turbines to meet the EU’s fanatical climate change agenda.
Our power bills are costing £250 per annum extra because of the drive to meet the impossible and pointless CO2 emissions targets. Another EU madness.
Everywhere we turn we are hampered by EU directives and regulations which are binding the hands of businesses, particularly small and medium sized enterprises.
We need to grow our way out of the recession and we have the talent and enthusiasm in this country to do so. But it is not happening because the rules of the ‘club’ won’t allow it.
More than 75% of our rules emanate from Brussels and not Westminster.
Those issuing the edicts are not elected representatives, they are faceless bureaucrats who make binding decisions behind closed doors.
We vote for our MPs in this country but they have less and less power and unbelievably they are just letting it happen.
The political elite in this country do not want to leave - only UKIP is fighting for our freedoms.
There is talk of losing jobs and trade links if we leave. Nonsense, the UK is the world’s sixth largest economy and most of our trade is outside the EU, with the Far East, Middle East, the USA and the Commonwealth.
By contrast, the EU is in decline and deep in debt. We buy more from the EU than it buys from us and it badly needs our business.
So don’t be fooled by scare stories about how leaving the EU would be bad. It would be the best move we could ever make.
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